Disharmony as Russians await a national anthem by Marina Lapenkova

Published November 24th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Ten years after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians still have no national anthem to sing and the disharmony over a permanent choice is deafening. 

Recent polls show that 49.9 percent of Russians favor reinstitution of Gimn Sovetskogo Soyuza or Hymn of the Soviet Union, as the anthem. Written in 1943 and adopted in 1944, it describes "the solid union of free republics huddled around Russia." 

Only 15.5 percent of Russians approve of the composition by 19th century musician Mikhail Glinka, which has been adopted as a provisional anthem. The music, which lacks lyrics, has never been popular among Russians who do not like seeing their Olympic athletes standing silent and emotionless when they hear the music. 

Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin adopted as the national symbols Glinka's music, as well as the new Russian coat of arms, and the tsarist two-headed eagle and tricolor flag. He did so without parliament's ratification. 

Dominated by Communists, the previous Duma, parliament's lower house, voted during its first 1999 sitting to readopt the old Soviet anthem. 

Yet many Russians are opposed to this former symbol of Stalinism. 

"The old words of the Soviet hymn are too engraved in the (Russian) spirit not to rise again if we return to the same melody," stated Maya Plisetskaya, a famous Russian dancer. 

The debate has pitted the most unlikely foes against each other. 

A deputy leader of Russia's Communist Party, Svetlana Goryacheva, prefers readopting the pre-revolution song, which begins God, protect the Tsar...

Film-maker Nikita Mikhalkov has publicly stated his preference for the Soviet hymn, whose words were written by his father, Sergei Mikhalkov

However, when Nikita met with Russian President Vladimir Putin recently, the film-maker conceded that the words would need to be changed. 

Putin himself has yet to make a public statement on the subject, but a Russian newspaper noted that he bears in mind the Orthodox Church's opposition to the Soviet anthem. 

Whatever Putin's choice, he will have no difficulty seeing it ratified because "the new Duma, submissive to Putin, will vote for all the symbols the Kremlin wants," a parliamentary source said. 

"Most parties, including the Communists, will accept the compromise arranged by the Kremlin: the music of the Soviet hymn, but (also) the monarchist two-headed eagle and tricolor," stated Viktor Pokhmelkin, a reformist deputy. 

Putin's newly created State Council began its first meeting Wednesday with a debate over adopting a national anthem. 

However reformists from the opposition group Yabloko, "are categorically opposed to restoring the symbols of the bloody crimes of Stalinism," according to a statement released last Friday. 

Yabloko prefers the Russian military march "The goodbyes of a Slav," written in 1912. – AFP. 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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